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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Hacker ''Defacers Challenge'' (July 2003)

CATEGORY: Media flops, media fiascoes

Major newswires and web-based news outlets reported a global "Defacers Challenge" (aka "Defacement Challenge," aka "Hacking Contest") slated for Sunday, 6 July. Vmyths dismisses these reports as blatant hysteria.

Vmyths pre­dicts no sub­stan­tial re­lated hacking ac­tiv­ity on 6 July 2003. We be­lieve this con­test will flop, if only be­cause its original "an­nounce­ment" vanished from the web as quickly as it appeared.
Security experts at TruSecure issued a detailed "hype" alert and we urge you to read it.

TruSecure's hype alert hedged (just a little) on the predicted impact of what might actually happen Sunday. TruSecure knows these events tend to flop miserably, yet media hype can sometimes breathe life into them. Vmyths predicts no substantial related hacking activity on 6 July. We believe this contest will flop, if only because its original "announcement" vanished from the web as quickly as it appeared.

Vmyths does not fully agree with TruSecure on one point. They identified the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and an unnamed vendor (Internet Security Systems) as chief instigators of this hysteria. We agree Internet Security Systems played a key role in the fearmongering — but Vmyths now suspects the New York State Office of Cyber-Security played a key role, too. We suspect they goaded other government & military agencies to issue alerts. A weirdly worded prediction from Zone-H.org also piqued the media's interest in this event.

Vmyths believes the major 24hr news channels will highlight this "Defacers Challenge" in their Saturday & Sunday coverage. Weekends are typically slow news days; only a major breaking story would bump it. However, because many security experts dismiss it as hysteria, we expect news anchors will report the story as if mentioning it in passing. Live TV interviews will probably be limited to spokesmen from Internet Security Systems and the New York State Office of Cyber-Security, and perhaps celebrity hacker Kevin Mitnick. At this point we don't expect the Department of Homeland Security to take part in any live interviews.

We expect news anchors will offer the usual advice to "update your antivirus software and change default passwords." Frankly, Vmyths doesn't expect anyone will rush to work on a long holiday weekend just to follow this advice. NEVER blindly obey computer security advice spouted by a news anchor. Always obtain expert advice from experts.

Stay calm. Stay reasoned. And enjoy the holiday weekend.

Last updated: 2003/7/5